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Thursday, December 29, 2011

My birthday!

Well today is my birthday. I turn 27 years old and inch closer and closer to 30! You know its funny when I was a teenager like 17 or 18 I thought 30 was SO old! By age 30 I expected to be married with two kids and a house with a white picket fence and an SUV with my dog in the back. Now at age 27 staring down the barrel of 30 I don't have any of that. But you know what? I am really happy! Of course I am not totally happy, no one is TOTALLY happy with their lives (otherwise you aren't living if you dont have some problems) but I am just about as close as you can get!

You see when I was born I had alot of medical problems and was born three months premature. The doctors didn't give me much chance of survival way back in 1984 much less a chance to lead a normal functional life. I can't imagine what my parents must have gone through. Luckily I proved them all wrong. Here I am 27 years later able to walk,talk and live normally. I like to think I am a productive functioning member of regular society lol. I am so blessed and lucky to have amazing doctors and nurses I will be forever grateful for!

When I was a kid I used to have a negative mindset about it all because I was "different" and not like everyone else. I hated my scars and my surgeries and the things I couldn't do. Sometimes I was quite depressed. Then one day I just decided to stop. Stop thinking so negatively. So over time I did! It took a while but finally I realised that I AM different but this is the way it is meant to be. Now I embrace my differences and love my scars (they are like a road map of my life). I was not able to join the military (my life long dream) but have now found my passion in life and I realise how lucky and blessed I am to be alive! There is many many people in this world much worse off than me.

I am lucky enough to have family and friends who love and support me. I am lucky enough to have found my passion in life (traveling) and lucky enough to be able to do it! To be free to see 20+ countries  (and counting!) I have seen and done so many amazing things in 27 years that most people don't get to see or do in a lifetime. I have no plans to stop until I feel like I have seen enough. We will see where this journey in life takes me and what the future holds but I am just along for the ride and lucky enough to still be here to enjoy it!

Last night my wonderful house mate Noong and my new roommate took me out for birthday dinner and drinks. It was very sweet of them and it was so good just to relax! She also got me an amazing cake and some fireworks! She is super sweet to me. Today we are having a party at my school (not for me but it could be haha!) and the kids are very excited for my birthday haha. Here is the sunrise I woke up too this morning!

I am loving life and will continue to do so until it is my time to leave this life. I wish you all the very best and hope you do the same! Happy New Year and all the best for 2012! -Tyler

Monday, December 26, 2011

The Aftermath of Christmas

My Christmas Eve this year was much more subdued than last year. Last year I spent Christmas Eve with two of my best girl friends in Auckland New Zealand in a Gentleman's Club (They had free buffet lunch lol) all of the girls working at the club were very nice and in cheerful spirits since it was almost Christmas and considering we were in a place of adult entertainment (I am using the politically correct terms here haha) we actually had a really good time and didn't spend that much money. As strange as it might sound to some of you that Christmas Eve spent with my two friends in Showgirls will always be a happy treasured memory for me.

Well this year I spent my Christmas Eve on the beach and my local beach bar having a few drinks with friends. Nothing major but it was nice and relaxing. Christmas Day rolled around and Noong made a feast of the ages! (scroll to the bottom of this post for a picture!) Of course it was not like what we can do back home but considering where I am it was great! It tasted so good and was of course lovingly prepared. After my meal here at home with her I went into town and ate again haha. There was a local restaurant where  alot of the expats go. They did a proper Christmas meal with turkey (very rare here in Thailand!) and ham and all the trimmings. Of course all the beer we could drink haha. I met alot of new friends and lots of teachers! It was so nice to get out and about and socialise again. I really enjoyed myself and had a good Christmas.

I hope that everyone got everything they wanted for Christmas and you are happy and healthy with your friends and family. I was lucky enough to get to speak to almost my entire extended family so that was really good! :) All the best for the upcoming year and enjoy your New Years Eve! I will be on an island celebrating my birthday and New Years Eve. Tough life I know haha.But, for now I am back to work this week and then I get a few days off and come back in early January. Nothing like the two or three week break Americans get for Christmas holidays. I wish!

Yall take care,Ty

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Christmas is upon us!

Well now that is Christmas is almost upon us I thought I would write a little holiday blog. Although, I must confess I am not totally in the holiday spirit considering that right now (I just checked it is 84 degrees F or 29 degrees C haha. It is a beautiful night and I can see many stars and feel the wind on my face. Also, considering that Thailand is a mainly Buddhist country Christmas is not that huge of a deal. As Thailand gets more touristy though I can feel a "Christmas" excitement, even my kids at school are excited! But, I think the excitement is mainly for the benefit of all the tourists here.  I am unsure whether Thai kids get Christmas presents from Santa or what they do here. In any event I am going to be on the beach with some friends enjoying Christmas and I have a few days off over New Years Eve and I plan to go relax on the islands down south with some friends. All of my family and friends are back home in Texas and I do miss them of course but I know they will have a great holiday even if I am not there. So all the best to everyone, I hope your Christmas and New Years is great!

Now for the more serious side of this blog post... I want to talk about suffering and inequality in the world. It is just a fact of life, it has been around since the beginning of time and I fear it always will be. Knowing that fact doesn't make it any easier for me though. Traveling as much as I have to 3rd world countries I do see many things that give me a great perspective on life (or so I like to think) I have seen some very sad things that make me very grateful for what I have and allow me to not take anything for granted. The divide between rich and poor can sometimes be very very large. I have seen people living on just one dollar a day. That really changes your outlook on life. You just cannot see these things and remain totally unchanged. What bothers me the most is that even if I dedicated every moment of the rest of my life to helping the poor and underprivileged I would be just a drop in the bucket. Sure I would help some people, possibly even a fair amount of people. But, would I help enough people to REALLY make a difference? The answer sadly is no.

You might say well Tyler that really is quite a defeatist attitude to have. It may sound like it on the surface but I would disagree with you, I would say my attitude is realistic. I am a realist if nothing else. I heard just the other day there was a storm in the Philippines and over 800 people died with 100,000 now homeless. I can also use Thailand (the country I am in now) as an example. When the floods were here over 1000 people died and the multiple hundreds of thousands if not millions of people are now homeless. This has hit especially close to home for me because I have seen the flood damage with my own eyes. In America (excluding the damage of Hurricane Katrina) the chances that over 1000 people and have millions of Americans homeless due to a flood is almost zero. Why is this? It is because our country (and all first world Westernized countries) are wealthy enough to have governmental agencies to prepare for natural disasters and help out when one does happen. These nations are wealthy enough to have plans for these problems and most likely have the infrastructure already in place to prevent them from happening in the first place. We are almost in 2012 and people should not have to live in some of the conditions I have seen.

I am trying to mold my thoughts into something coherent and I am having trouble lol. Basically what I am saying is that suffering and inequality suck. They have always existed and I fear always will. The only thing that will change any of this is a GLOBAL mindset change. So the poor can become richer and the rich can care enough to help those who are not, on a global level. I doubt this will happen in my lifetime but one can always hope that my kids will have a better future and live in a world where there is much more equality. People in America are able to turn on their tv's,laptops,ipods,xbox's all the crap that we have but don't NEED while people in Thailand and elsewhere may not even have a toilet that flushes or have electricity.

Well on that note, here is to hoping that 2012 is better for me (and better for the world) than 2011. If we survive that is lol. We may all be dead come December 21st of 2012. If that is the case that me
 ans the Mayans were right and that this blog post won't even matter haha. -Tyler

P.S. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! All the best for 2012 from me :)

I am now an author!

I am now a published author! As most of you know now I am fairly heavily involved with CS ( and I found out a guy who is a member there is a writer/publisher and he was making a book of 101 travel stories from different travelers. I submitted mine and got chosen to be in the book! Here is my story :) I will let you know when it is published (Most of the proceeds of the book sales go to an African Water Charity, so buy the book!)

Life as we know it

by Tyler Horton

As I think over my life and all of my many travels to over 17+ countries, two things jump instantly in my mind. These are times when time itself has seemed to stop for me. I was not on top of Macchu Picchu or at Ankowat (both of which I have been too) but, I was in very ordinary places doing very ordinary things.
I was living and working for a year in Australia in 2009/2010. One day I randomly met a British girl and we really got along well. So, on my day off we decided to go to Hyde Park in Sydney and lay on the grass to feed the birds. Think about your own life and ask yourself how many times in your life have you taken the time to slow down enough to just totally relax and feed the birds?
In that moment when we were feeding the birds time slopped. Nothing else mattered, we were both totally content with everything around us. I remember feeling such a wave of peace come over me that I never wanted it to end. Unfortunately all good things must come to an end. As the sun faded that day we left the park and returned back to our lives. I was sad because I thought I would never get to feel those feelings again. Lucky for me it happened once more.
A year later I was living and working in Auckland,New Zealand and I was walking down Queen St at 9pm. I had somewhere to be and I was in a hurry but I suddenly heard two street performers across the street from each other. One guy was playing Jimi Hendrix “The Wind Cries Mary” and the other was a gorgeous girl playing something on the cello right then and there I stopped, time stopped. I totally forget where I was going or what I needed to do. The only thing that matter in my life was listening to them play music. I once again felt that total peace and everything was good in the world. Once they stopped playing the moment was over. I was back to normal life again. Ever since then I have been searching for that feeling of total peace but I have yet to find it again. This was not an adventure or adrenaline story. This was not a story of something beautiful or amazing I have seen. But, this was a story of how sometimes, just sometimes you can be reminded of how amazing life can be when you are traveling. When you are at home wrapped up in your own life I think you are way too busy to stop and listen to music or feed the birds. You have way too much going on to really appreciate life. The exact opposite is true when you are traveling. I hope that each one of you who reads this will stop to feed the birds somewhere. Stop trying to control life and let it control you just for a brief moment in time. You wont regret it.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Teacher Tyler

Well I have been "Teacher Tyler" (what the kids call me) for three weeks now! The kids generally are really good (the girls more quiet and perfect than the boys lol) and I am teaching 6-12 year olds (different ages on different days) five days a week. Extra English at school and it is going really well and I am falling into it now. I really like the kids and I enjoy teaching. The 10-12 year olds are by far my favourite. (Never thought I would say that! haha)  I have made a few more observations about teaching now. The school administration leaves me alone totally and lets me do whatever I want really. So I play alot of games with the kids and just talk with them (I found a great website online for games!)  The Thais have a different way of speaking than we do and I don't just mean the language differences.  In the Thai language there is gender. Guys end their sentences with Krup to be polite and girls say Ka. But, in the Thai culture to be respectful and polite it is better to speak slow and draw out the end of your sentences so if a girl is speaking to me and she wants to say hello she will say Sawadee kaaaaaaaaaaaaa. At first I struggled to understand it but now I get it just fine.

Since I have been teaching English I have learned to speak REALLY slowly and clearly. MUCH slower than I would speak in normal conversation so they can understand me. I find this works really well for school but sometimes it bleeds over to my normal conversations and I have to stop myself haha. Sometimes, I find myself speaking to Thais or people who don't know that much English and I "dumb down" my language to make it easier to understand. Obviously for teaching this is a bad idea because it reinforces bad English to the kids so I try my very best not to do with them. Some things are so engrained into the Thai culture that I don't even try to change them. For example, when a Thai person (man or woman,child or adult) wants to say something is "the same" or the same as something else. They will say "Same Same". Almost 100% of people say it here and I have no idea how it got started but I just go with and use it because people actually know it means "the same".

 I have been watching a fair bit of Thai TV here even though I can't understand the vast majority of it lol. Thai soap operas are SO overdramatic its funny :P. The acting is pretty bad and for that reason they are really enjoyable to watch. Last night my housemate and I watched a really funny game show/variety show on tv. Basically it was this guy dressed in "blackface" pretending to be Tiger Woods (which would never be allowed back home because it would be considered racist or politically incorrect I am sure) and they had a full grown man who happened to be a midget (Little Person?) dressed in a diaper like a baby! and a hodge podge of other people along with one farang (white person) a girl.

So part of the skit was a guy came out with a fake pink gun and he "shot" everyone. It was interesting because on Thai tv that are not allowed to show people getting "shot" or "dying" they blurred it out! After he "killed" everyone he drank a beer (which they couldn't show either!) and he tried to "kill" himself. But, the one white girl she thought the skit was over and she tried to get up (they obviously hadn't rehearsed this before) and everyone was screaming " YOU DIE, YOU DIE" and she laid back down really fast haha! But, if any of the people laughed these little "creatures" just people in costumes came out and hit them with clubs! It was so odd haha. But, that was not all.... they had the fake Tiger Woods guy sit in a chair and eat some cake with no water as fast as he could then they pulled the chair towards a fake spinning Octopus so that the tenticles would hit him in the face and smash cake all over him haha. It was the strangest show ever! I didn't understand most of it but I just died laughing haha!

I was driving to work the other day (by now I know just about where every pot hole is in the roads!) and there is no speed limit as far as I can tell so I certainly don't fly down the road like some people I see (Nor do I drive into oncoming traffic like some people I see!) but, I go as fast as  I feel comfortable with and haven't had any problems. I do drive a pink motorbike. ( I borrow my housemate's) at first it was embarrassing for me as a guy to drive around town on a pink motorbike but now I kinda like it. Everyone knows it is me and the kids get a kick out of seeing me on a pink motorbike haha. I saw a guy on a motorbike with four monkeys! I really thought I had seen it all, I have seen people carrying babies on motorbikes going SUPER fast down the road (it would NEVER happen back home) I have seen about six people on one tiny motorbike, I have seen one person with tons and tons of groceries. But until never now a man carrying four live monkeys like children on a motorbike haha (They use trained monkeys here to remove coconuts from the trees)

I need to tell you two things that bother me thus far about Asia in general. Number one is "Asian Time" here they really in general have no concept of "an appointment" or sticking to a schedule! We were supposed to get Internet at out house days ago and they keep saying "we are coming" (Who knows when it will happen!) Also, there is the constant putting on and taking off of your shoes. Now I totally understand this one, it is just a sign of respect not to dirty someone's house or business with your shoes. (99% of people here wear sllip ons or thongs/flip flops so its super easy for them but I can't.) I wear sandels that aren't SUPER hard to take on or off but constantly taking them on and off is annoying. So I tend to stay in one place for as long as possible haha.

It is almost holiday time for us here! Christmas is basically a non event here since most of Thailand is Buddhist but New Years Eve is fairly big and my 27th birthday is soon! I am interviewing for a new job on monday to get more working hours so wish me luck but, I need to figure out how many days off I will actually get for the holidays! I must say, I have broken my "No Western Food" vow after 49 days straight! Noong (my house mate) made me Spagetti Alfredo and something very similar to Chicken Fried Steak. I was kinda sad to break my vow but man they were SO good! So, I am being well fed if nothing else haha.

Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas,Happy Hanaka,Happy Kwansa whatever else you might celebrate :) Happy new year (soon) and Happy (almost) birthday to a few on my friends born on 30th of Decemeber like me! Til next time,Tyler

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Back From The Visa Run

Well now I head back to my little town, I stayed a couple of days in Bangkok to break up my long long journey to and from Laos for my visa. It was nice to catch up with friends and stuff. I saw a movie with some friends I met off the bus, we saw The Immortals. It was a fairly entertaining waste of two hours and the ticket only cost three dollars. I hear American music all the time here as in most every other country I have visited. As I right this I am on the train ride home and it will be six hours or so. I had to book a lower class seat than usual because tey were almost sold out so it may not be so comfortable but it will get me there!

On the bus ride up to Laos I paid for a seat on the bus but they overbooked the bus as they do sometimes and I ended up sitting in the middle of the aisle in a little child's chair for four hours. It was not so much fun lol but I still got there. While I was in Laos I went to a day market with my friend Maurice and there was a huge snake loose in the market! Everyone was screaming and running around ( I don't think it was a Cobra but it could have been) and eventually they killed it by stomping on its head lol. Only in Asia haha. I bought a few things and shopped around. In Laos I also slept on the hardest bed I have ever slept on in my life. I think they literally just smoothed out a rock and wrapped a sheet around it lol. It was so hard that my body was actually in pain from sleeping on it! Luckily I only had one night there.

Back here in Thailand I had some lunch and the lady at her little stall ( I love local food!) didn't speak any English but, she made me some kind of soup. It had the look and consistency of snot. That sounds really gross and it looks gross but it tasted so good once you got past the fact that you were eating snot like soup haha. On the menu at another restaurant I saw it had translated into English "Chicken without Chicken" sometimes their translations really make me laugh lol. Last night for dinner I saw they had "venison in gravy sauce" on the menu and I was really excited to get some deer meat so I ordered it and paid six whole dollars for it! But, I was super disappointed when it came out and was just a fancier version of their regular beef :(

One last thing before I end this for today, I was shopping at MBK (the huge mall in Bangkok) after my movie was over and I saw a guy selling NES (Nintendo Entertainment System) which I won in Kindergarten thanks to my mom's old boss who bought like 600 boxes of cookies from me or something haha. It was like a blast from the past to see that! But, the guy selling it wanted 5000 baht for it which is like 160 dollars! I know I could have haggled with him and got it for cheaper most likely with games and controllers and everything but 160 dollars USD for a piece of my childhood,while amazing... no thanks lol. He also had Sega,N64 and all the other gaming systems of my childhood. It was like a walk down memory lane for me.

I am back at work tomorrow (today was a holiday) and back at the grind. I like it though its nice and hopefully I will get a contract for school in march. Until then I am just casually teaching and trying to make ends meet. But, I have a good school with good people and the kids are awesome. It is easier than I thought and I like it. -Tyler

Friday, December 09, 2011

The Visa!

So I made it up to Laos and finally got my visa! After going on a fruitless trip to Burma,traveling up to Bangkok and into Laos,spending  a lot of time and money on this and I finally got six whole months to stay in Thailand ( If I maximize all my visa extensions) But all up for a six month visa to Thailand it cost about 150 USD just in visa fees not to mention all the time and expense I have paid to get up here and get this! The actual process to get the visa (should have) been straight forward and easy but there was so many people there and they didn't call out the assigned numbers in the correct order so it took forever!

As I write this I am back in Thailand and tomorrow is another holiday (Constitution Day) so I will stay in Bangkok tonight and rest and leave for my little town tomorrow. I have met some really cool people on my journey to get this visa and soon I will be meeting up with some of them to hang out. I have a lucky knack for meeting really cool people wherever I go :)When I was back up in Laos I met up with my Aussie friend Maurice. It was good to see him again and catch up but I left him back in Laos he should be here for Christmas though. We may go see a movie or something today and it will be nice to see my friends back in Bangkok.

On the way back last night we stopped at a 7/11 (There is more 7/11's here in Thailand than there is in America!) many times you will see one 7/11 right across the street from another selling the same stuff at the same prices haha. If you are in Thailand and you are super hot from being outside, go in there. They always have air conditioning and if you need someone who speaks good English look no further than their employees. A strange thing about Thai gas/petrol stations is that they have "squares" you have to park you car/truck/motorbike in before you fill up. It is all very orderly haha. They don't generally do self service that much, they have people to pump your gas for you. It is like three dollars a week for me to fill up my motorbike so it is cheap! They also have much higher octane gas than we have back home. They go all the way up to 99 octane and they sell LPG and a bunch of other "alternative fuel" that we don't generally have at home. They have some flavours of chips and things that would seem odd in America but not here! I love the Peking duck flavour chips made by Lays here and they have a sea weed flavour that sounds gross but it is pretty good. They have "milk flavoured bread" that is super good and many other things you wont find in America.

Oh! I wanted to mention that last night I did get to see the lunar eclipse here in Thailand ( I was actually in Laos when it started) then we crossed the border and I saw the rest of it from Thailand. Our bus was not amazing but it got me back to Bangkok in one piece and a 15 hour bus ride cost me only 25 USD! We watched a DVD (Captain America) in English that was the same DVD I watched on the way to Laos lol. We had a blanket and air conditioning that worked! ( It usually doesn't work at all or is WAY too cold) and on the way back to Thailand my reading light didn't work but for the first time EVER and I do mean EVER my reading light WORKED! on the way to Laos! I have taken hundreds of long haul bus journeys in many many different countries around the globe and that was the first time I can remember the little reading light actually working, I was so excited when tried it haha. I always try it just out of habit really not expecting it to work after so many failures, when it worked I almost had a heart attack! lol.

Here in Bangkok I had the rare privilege of having a really super nice taxi driver! He actually charged me less than what the meter said! He also spoke really good English and gave me some great tips. After having my "rip off alert radar" going for so long it is refreshing to have this experience!  You know Thai traffic lights here in Bangkok are strange! They have a "countdown clock" so you know how long it is before the light turns green or red. You must wait at a red light for 184 seconds! That may not seem like long but, when you are sitting there going nowhere it feels like forever! Also, it is only green for 94 seconds! Strange huh?

One last thing: I am a published author now! I submitted a travel story of mine to a website that is putting together a travel book of stories from people all over the world. Cool idea huh? Well they picked my story to be in the book! I may post it on here soon. It's only 2000 something words. Anyway I am pretty excited about that and profits of the book go to charity! Once they get the book published I will let yall know. Take care,Tyler

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

The King's Birthday

Today was The King's Birthday ( I only saw it on TV as he is up in Bangkok) but it was quite the spectacle to watch! Here he is revered with an almost God like status. Keep in mind that it may seem foreign to us Westerners the notion of this man being placed on an almost God like status but, he has been The King since 1946 and he is the world's longest reining monarch. So the vast majority of the Thai population has grown up with him as their “rock” for over 60 years now! Everyone universally loves him here and there is pictures of him and the queen EVERYWHERE. People are SUPER patriotic about it here and if you bad mouth The King or crumple money (his face is on it) these things and anything related to disrespecting The Royal Family are punishable by up to two years in prison! They are super serious about it.

Today they brought him out to see his adoring public (he is in his mid 80's and not in good health) and everyone went wild for him! There was a massive military display and public celebration, today is a public holiday here. He spoke for a short bit and even though I couldn't understand a word he said I knew it meant a lot to the Thai people. When he does pass away it will really throw this country for a sad loop I feel. His wheelchair was like an enormous Lazy-Boy Recliner with wheels and it was covered in gold! I am certain his wheelchair alone was worth more than everything I own haha. It has been a neat experience to be here for his 84th birthday. I hope he does have many more years to come. He has a son next in line for the throne and a daughter (from what I understand some people don't like his son but his daughter is prohibited from the throne while there is a male alive to ascend it next.)

There is songs about The King,public announcements about him,pictures of him,bracelets for him( I am wearing one now!) and many many more things. He is almost universally revered here. When you go to see a movie here whether it is in Thai or English, before your movie starts there is a short “movie” about The King's life. You have to stand up in total silence and respect until it is over. I have seen many pictures of him and always assumed that these pictures are over 20 or 30 years old but seeing him today on TV he looked remarkable young besides some gray hair. I am sure they did him up for TV but he has aged remarkably well! Ok now onto what I wanted to write about...

For those of you who are curious or thinking about coming here for a visit or to move here I thought I would elaborate a little more on life here in the Land of Smiles. Driving here is possible just so long as you throw everything you ever learned about driving out the window haha. The best way I have learned to drive here is to follow the locals. If they blow through a red light/stop sign you should do the same. Because, if you stop whenever everyone else is going obviously you are going to be in an accident. So no matter what logic/common sense tells you just do as the locals do. Stay as far as possible to the left side of the road (if you are on a motorbike) and when someone honks at you it means they want to pass you. My advice is to let them pass LOL. Make sure you wear your helmet :)

People here are super friendly and will go out of their way to help you generally. Thais love foreigners and they love learning English. They appreciate an effort on your part to learn their language but I think they also realise that their language is very difficult for foreigners to learn. The Thai people are extremely non confrontational. Sometimes they are so much so that it is annoying. For example, if you want to know where a bank is and you point say, left. They will agree with you that the bank is on the left even if they know it is on the right!!! It is best not to point at anything and just let them tell you. Thais in general will ignore something and put up with it rather than be confrontational and deal with it. Coming from the Western world this is certainly something I have had to learn to deal with.

My kids at school love speaking English to me if I can get them one on one but, in front of their peers most all of the kids become EXTREMELY shy. The Thais in general hate to lose face or risk becoming embarrassed. This goes for kids and adults alike. So my kids would rather play dumb and say nothing than risk messing up an English word. As a teacher this is something I have had to learn how to deal with. The kids are very curious about America and American culture in general and they treat me with a great deal of respect (all the kids and teachers alike) learning,education and teachers are VERY highly valued here in Thailand. It is such a radical change from our education system in the Western world. I also learned quickly never to give out any assignments right before class is about to be over because in Thai culture leaving something for later is a total foreign concept. They will sit there for an hour after class to finish something even if you tell them it can wait until tomorrow!

Thailand is one of, if not the world's number one exporter of rice so obviously that is a huge part of their diet. They love meat and veggies and rice and soups and have so many amazing dishes here. Cooking in Thailand is done almost exclusively in “street stalls” and you are sitting literally sometimes right next to the chef and the outdoor kitchen. Food is as fresh as you can get it and thus far I have not had a bad meal yet! Food is extremely cheap and for the most part really healthy. I do think their cholesterol is most likely higher than it should be as an overall population but most people here are quite thin and small in stature. The only time you will have food cooked in the traditional restaurant style you are most likely used too is if you go to a most likely expensive and Westernized “sit down” restaurant.

I try my hardest to stay away from Western food though because it is more expensive and just does not taste as good. Condiments in the normal sense don't exist here. You almost never will get black pepper and salt. Ketchup/Mustard are almost non existent as well. Here they have fish sauce (similar to soy sauce) diluted chili sauce (liquid), dried chili powder,sugar and HOT chili sauce. That is what you flavour your food with. If you can't tolerate spicy food well they can and will make it mild for you and you can skip on the condiments. They LOVE veggies and fruit here. Meat is also plentiful. I have been eating more healthy variety of food (Yes mom, fruit and veggies!) here than I ever have in my life!

As I have mentioned before, Air Conditioning and Hot Water are luxuries that in this climate for the most part you can just do without. Sometimes the Internet/Electricity is sporadic, you can't put toilet paper in the toilet (sometimes they don't even have flush toilets here just squat toilets with a bucket) learning how to use the bum gun as I described in my previous blog really makes life easier! Remember to have your own toilet paper though! Life here runs at a slower more relaxed pace once you get out of Bangkok so you have to learn ( I certainly did) that you just can't rush things here. Buses/trains/public transport rarely run on time and that is something you have to deal with. Waiting is just part of the game here. The sooner you can accept that the better :) Public transport here is extremely cheap with varying degrees of comfort depending on how far you are going, how much you pay and what mode of transport you take. There is a half way decent chance you will be sharing with many many people and maybe even some livestock along the way haha. I have paid for bus rides and not even got a seat (they intentionally overbook the bus without telling you and force you to sit or stand in the aisle)

Haggling is a skill you must learn if you are to survive here. This is most especially true in Bangkok not so much where I am living now but if you don't learn how to haggle you WILL be ripped off without a doubt. I want to stress that 95% of the Thais who are overcharging you do it not to be malicious but just because they know if you are inexperienced they can get more money out of you and keep it for their families etc. A good rule of thumb is to to start off offering them half of what they initially quote you and go from there. ALWAYS be willing to walk away and generally speaking they will give you a good price by the end of the bargaining. Keep in mind that almost always what you are buying even if it is “expensive” in Thailand it is much cheaper than what you could get it for back home. So don't be an asshole. Don't low ball them on purpose. It is great to come away from a haggling experience with what you want, and both you and the seller are happy. Almost anything in Thailand is for sell and can be haggled for if you have the money. There is not much that is off limits here.

Bangkok is the city that 99% of people start out in and it is a VERY intense, in your face city. People are constantly all over the place, it is loud and noisy and crowded and sometimes dirty and smelly. People will constantly harass you to get you to buy things. But don't let all that negativity put you off. 99% of the people in Bangkok are nice and friendly and just out to make a living. Underneath all the surface craziness of Bangkok it is a city that really does have a lot to offer. There are many temples and tourist attractions, The Royal Palace and much much more. So my advice to the first timer in Thailand is spend three or four days in Bangkok but no more.

Thailand is a beautiful amazing country with so much to offer! You can go north to the jungle and the mountains of Chang Mai or go south to the islands and be a beach bum. If you have enough time you can do both! I would totally recommend it. Small town life in Thailand is MUCH different than big city life much the same as living in Dallas Texas is much different than living in say San Angelo Texas out in pretty much the middle of nowhere. In Thailand you have your contrast just as you would at home. I recommend getting to see both sides of Thailand if you are here. Almost every Thai woman from the age of 15-45 has this strange obsession of being white. I guess in reality it is not all that strange, seeing as girls in the Western world try everything they can to be tan haha. It seems to be all about looking different than you are. Girls here slather themselves with this whitening cream (God only knows what is in that stuff!) all day long to get whiter skin. I think they feel that if you are rich and don't have to work in the sun you will have lighter skin. It is a sad class system and the media at work telling beautiful Thai girls they need to look different than they really are. Totally opposite of Western girls who actually WANT to be tan. Things women do for beauty, I tell you.....

One last bit of advice from my personal experience. If you plan on staying here and teaching or just being here for longer than one month MAKE SURE YOU CHECK INTO THE PROPER VISA BEFORE YOU GET HERE. I can't stress that enough! It is possible to sort your visa once you get here but if you can get it all done BEFORE you leave your home country it is SO much easier! It is really a pain if you have to do it or change your visa once you are already here. Did I stress that enough? :P Living costs here if you are just visiting here or living can be almost nil if you play your cards right. But I am writing this travel review from a backpacker perspective. You can and will spend a lot of money here if you want too. You can have “Western Standards” of living if you are willing to pay the price for it. If the life style I have mentioned above makes you uncomfortable don't let that put you off from coming here!

You can still have a great time here without going local and bare bones as I do. But, keep in mind if you “live the resort life” the entire time you are here in Thailand you aren't really experiencing Thailand! Try your best to get out of the typical tourist mode and tourist places, treat the Thais and their culture with respect (make an effort to learn basic Thai greetings) and remember that you are in their country. Respect their laws and traditions, The King is almost a deity here so do NOT say anything against him! You will get out what you put in here, if you are nice and friendly you will be treated with the same here. All of this will make your time here so much better! You can and will meet many many foreigners here if you so choose but you can also meet some great locals I would recommend it! The locals are super nice and love meeting foreigners.

New comers here should initially when you start out, be cautious what you eat and drink until your stomachs get used too it. I can now drink their tap water but at first here you should drink only bottled water. If you are getting any street food and it is meat of any kind make sure you ask them to heat it up again on the fire. If you do have any stomach problems at all (which at first you may) it generally is very mild and goes away in a day or two) you can go to any pharmacy/chemist and even if they don't speak a lick of English you can just say “Bangkok Belly” or mime stomach problems and they will sort you out immediately. So to wrap this all up, Yes Thailand is different than home,Yes Thailand can be quite shocking sometimes for first timers, Yes there will be things here you aren't used too (Sometimes Health and Safety here is not up to Westernized standards) but don't let any of that put you off from coming here and experiencing this wonderful country The Land of Smiles has so much to offer and the people are great! It is my hope that you will fall in love with this place as I have. Get out of your comfort zone and eat some real local Thai food. Try scorpion on a stick, its great!

I am off to Laos tomorrow to hopefully finally get my visa stuff sorted so see you on the flip side.

I hope this little review of my new temporary home was helpful. -Tyler

Immigration Hell

Immigration hell!

So I am having to renew my visa to allow me to stay in Thailand and work. You would think this would be a quick, easy straight forward process right? Wrong! Not only is there many multiple types of visa's for Thailand but each nationality has their own rules and not every immigration office (including the one closest to me) does what you need. So since my visa was running out I was forced to leave Thailand and go to Burma to get another stamp.

Theoretically this should be a really easy process. I leave my sleepy little beach town and get a bus 6 hours south to the Burmese Border, cross over and get my stamp,then come back into Thailand and voila la! I have more time to stay in Thailand.

Practically though, that is not how it works at all :( I left home and got a bus to a place mid way between here and the border. From there I was forced to pay for another bus the rest of the way down to the Burmese Border. I had taken off work on Friday because I was assured within one working day I could get this all done. But, even though I left my home 7am Friday on the first bus out, I didn't get to the border until 5:30pm! I was then told that the immigration office was closed for the day and I would have to stay overnight.

Fail! :( So basically I missed a day of work for nothing. The only bright spot in any of this is that I met a really awesome Russian couple and a really cool Italian dude and the four of us had a really good time together hanging out. So the next day I wake up and go with my new Italian friend to the border. The border between Thailand and Burma is a water crossing so you have to take a boat there and back. I had previously declined the offer at my guest house for them to take care of the whole process for me for 1000 baht (32 dollars USD) because I thought it was too expensive.

So, after paying for the motorbike taxi to the pier, getting checked in and haggling with the boat captain about how much it will cost to take us there and back. We settle on a price. I was then told we needed 10 dollars (American) each for the Burmese border authorities. Well here in Thailand they have the Baht and no Dollars. The banks are closed because it is a weekend and the King's Birthday on Monday so we are fresh out of luck!

But surprise,surprise our boat captain has American Dollars he will happily give us for a fee of course. So I ended up giving him the equivalent of 17 USD in Thai Baht just to one 10 dollar bill! :( Fail again!He takes us there and we get it done with no worries and come back. We then have to pay him his fee for taking us there and back plus his “tip” that he requested, and a “weekend holiday fee” :( I then find out that they can't give me the visa stamp I need there after all, even though I called on the phone and asked them specifically if they could do this and they promised me they could!

At this point I am about to rip my hair out!!! I have spent two days of my life traveling trying to get this stamp and they tell me all they can give me is 15 extra days and not the 90 days I need! (They tell me I have to go to the Thai Embassy in Laos) Which means I have to go from here to Bangkok and then up through Thailand into Laos sometime in the next 15 days to get this done so they don't deport me.

Want to know the most ironic part? After you factor in all the fees,taxis etc etc. This visa stamp trip itself ended up costing me 900 baht and it was a huge hassle! The guest house was going to take care of all of it for me for 1000 baht. I went thru all that Hell to save myself 3 USD :( and my total trip was two days of my life, so much stress and in the end all I got was 15 extra days and it cost me over 60 USD in total! So somtime in the next two weeks I will be spending more money to go to Laos to apply for this visa properly and get it all done and settled so I can get what I need but it will be a long expensive process I am sure. I hate how complicated this is. It is not easy and no one tells you any of this before you come here. Well I am learning by experience anything they tell you on the phone can't be trusted. But hopefully when/if I have to do this again I will have all the kinks ironed out and I won't be going back to Burma! I will be going to Laos ASAP.

I am so exhausted/frustrated etc. blah. The only good news is that Monday is a holiday.

All the stars in the galaxy

I went on a beach walk with a beautiful French girl named Patricia. Here in my little beach town at night and when you are walking on the beach generally it is just you alone with no other tourists around. I was walking with her and we stopped. I told her to look up and it seemed as if we could see every star in the whole galaxy all at once. There was zero light pollution and it was like her and I were alone on the planet. Every star was crystal clear.

I had nowhere to be,nothing to do,no worries or pressures in that moment. Just hand in hand with a beautiful, fascinating girl on the beach in Thailand. Unfortunately this will be one of those passing through life experiences I mentioned before. She was leaving the next day so all we had was one night and that was it. Even if I never see her again I certainly won't forget her. Who knows maybe we will see each other again somewhere. I never say never.

If only life were always so simple. We tend over complicate life. To pollute it with our expectations,worries,jobs,stresses,family problems,money problems and so on.
Of course this is natural. All of our worries are just part of the course of life. But, I don't think enough people are reminded of how life CAN be. I am certainly not a millionaire nor will I be one any time soon. I don't have air conditioning (not that I need it) and sometimes my electricity shuts off. You know what though? I am happy. I am happy to be pretty much debt free,traveling,working, living life in another country far from home but happy.

People here seem to live life at a slower pace. Not always rushing and always ready to give you a smile and a wave. Teachers here are treated with serious respect ( I can't leave school without saying hi or bye to at least 50 kids!) Everyday at work the kids sing me a song. “Thank you Teacher Tyler for being our teacher,we love learning with you!” The first day I was quite taken aback by this. I wasn't even sure how to respond to this haha. But, everyday the sing me this song. It is just part of the culture here and I let them do it.

The kids generally listen to me very well and are eager to learn and eager to please. The boys just as in any culture are a little more routy than the girls but even they are tame compared to American children. The girls are super hard workers and always want to be perfect for me. I rely on them to help me keep the boys in line sometimes haha. All the teachers at my school are very nice and the administration here seems very competent as well. I am still only in my trial period but I am hopeful they will hire me because I would love to stay! I have started to slowly but surely learn a few words of Thai and the kids are helping me too. It is a “tonal” language that is NOTHING like English so it is extremely hard for me but I am hopeful I can learn because in this small town not many people speak English.

I had my interview and they told me “Can you start tomorrow?” I said sure and the next day they put me in front of a class and said “Teach!” no guidance, feedback or directions haha. The first couple of days they did observe me (still no feedback lol) and they did give me a work book to go off of. But, the first couple of days were rough for me, never doing this before. Now that I am into my second week though, they have stopped looking in on my classes and just let me do as I please really. For this trial period I am just teaching one hour per day, five days a week.

I am hoping to get more hours if they accept me though. I have tried to be fun and creative with my kids and stay away from the work books too much. I like playing games like Hangman with them. I teach three different age groups at the moment, ranging from age 6-12. I prefer the older kids but all my kids are good. They are studious and fun to be with. I have met a few other English teachers here and one of them has given me some great advice plus some awesome teaching tools! Luckily all my kids know some English already so I am not starting from absolute zero. Most of them have long complicated names that I can't even begin to pronounce but luckily they have short nicknames they go by that are easy to remember!

I have been renting a place from a wonderful Thai lady who is super sweet and takes really good care of me, she even feeds me :). Her place is RIGHT on the beach and my room is huge! I want to put some pictures up soon but at the moment I don't have Internet access here so it is a little hard to get the pictures on Facebook but I am hoping to get them up soon. I have been stuffing my face full of great Thai food and making some friends around here.

I am a regular at a bar about 100 meters from my house. It is mostly retirees there I am one of the few young ones but all the old guys are great and have many stories to tell from all over the world. I have even taken to driving a motor bike here. In this little town it is pretty much the only way to get around. They don't even have proper taxis here. Just motor bike taxis. Very few people own cars,mostly motor bikes. The Thais drive on the left side of the road (well all over the road haha) I routinely have to deal with live stock on the road and even cows walking on the beach!

There is not very many driving laws here at all but they do have some kind of crazy system here (sometimes oncoming traffic even comes right at you!) But, they always manage to veer off at the last second. Almost no one uses their turn signals here either! I have figured out mostly how their system works here though and as long as you pay attention and do as the locals do you are fine. I haven't had a single close call yet. Having access to my own motorbike makes it so much easier to get from where I live on the beach into town and work. Yes, I do have and do wear a helmet so no worries there! Besides, taking a motorbike taxi too and from was getting expensive so renting my own transport works out much cheaper in the long run. Gas/petrol is not much at all. I am going tomorrow to sort my visa stuff out and then all will be well in the world again :)

I wish all of you all the happiness in the world. If you are reading this I hope you are doing what you need to do in your life to be truly happy. If you aren't, my question is, Why not?!

Til next time,Your traveling Texan-Tyler